I read the proposed bill sponsored by Rep Gyang Dung (PDP-Plateau) and eight others seeking to alter sections 6, 84, 185, 240, 246, 247, 288, 289, 292 and 318 of the principal Act, in order to established an Ecclesiastical court that will abjudicate on issues that bothers on “Christian law”.
I shook my head while reading the news because I found it laughable that our legislators will abandon important subjects that bothers on the economy, education, political and environmental sectors, but instead they sat down to discuss an irrelevant bill that is needless, useless and has no single impact on the lives of the average Nigeria citizen.
Do we even need a “Christian court”? For what purpose? Is there any central Christian law in the first instance? Is this a ploy to expedite the passage of the Sharia Court of Appeal bill that is before the House? What exactly is the motive of the promoters and the House? All these questions popped out of my recession-hit head while I was reading the report. These I shall try my best to address in this piece.
1. Do Christians Need Ecclesiastical Court?
If we take a look at the Bible carefully in the book of I Corinthians 6:1-10, Apostle Paul warned believers never to take their brothers to law court(irrespective of nomenclature) to settle religious disputes.The Lord Jesus Christ in his teaching laid out how disputes should be settled among believers of the Christian faith in Matthew 18:15-17, a procedure that is very simple and direct.
According to Christ, if a brother offends another, the offended brother should approach the one that offended him to settle the disputes as brothers (Matthew 18:15), if he refuses to listen, the offended brother should approach leadership of the Church to intervene (Matthew 18:16), and if he refuses to listen to the Church leadership for peaceful resolution, the brother that was offended should let go for God to take control (Matthew 18:17). As simple as that.
In the book of 1 Corinthians 16, Apostle Paul was direct in condemnation of the Corinthian church after he heard that they were suing each other to court. He admonished them to withdraw the cases against brethren that were pending before the court, but instead admonished them to settle among themselves or by involving the elders.
In Christian religion, the Chief Justice is God Almighty, He, through the Holy Spirit directs brethren and elders in handling disputes within the body of Christ. He doesn’t give such power to any institution outside the Christian faith, and does not in anyway delegate his power to any secular judicial officer. The so called Ecclesiastical Court is an aberration in Christianity, and is not needed nor wanted in the body of Christ.
2. Is There Any Central Christian Law In The First Instance?
Let us for once consider this question, is there a central Christian law? From all practice, the Christian religion has NO LAW, the Bible however states precepts and commandments that should be obeyed by practicing Christians but they are never considered a law. Unlike precepts and commandments that doesn’t prescribe earthly punishment for defaulters, a law prescribe punishment for defaulters.
For instance, the Christian doctrine is against idolatry, but any Christian that engages in the act will not be punished by anybody according to any law. He may be disciplined by his local church in order to restore him to the faith but if he choose to continue, his case will be handed to God while the brethren pray for him to repent.
Besides, even the Christian commandment and precepts has over the years been subjected to different interpretation depending on various assemblies and congregations. Some sect don’t believe in the Holy Trinity, while others does; some set see tithing as fraud, some see it as command; to some sect, the Catholics and all those that use images to aid worship are idolaters and not Christians. To some, divorce is a NO, while some others not only see divorce as Biblical but welcomes remarriage. Some believe in Christmas and Easter, while others see it as fraudulent practice of pagans. Need I say more? .
What is central in Christianity is that God will be the judge on the last day, HE will judge all men, Christians and non Christians according to their works, and the Saints will judge the Angels.
3. Status of Christian Association of Nigeria In The Christiandom:
Make no mistake, CAN is not a central body of Christians in Nigeria, neither does it posses a central authority. CAN is only an association of those Christian religious leaders that are part of the association. CAN is not an authority in Christiandom in Nigeria, they are not the Holy Spirit, they CANNOT prescribe any Christian law. In fact, not all churches are part of CAN as an association, not all Christians recognises CAN. To be explicit, Christianity can never be regulated by any government, body, association or group or any person/persons, and should never be. Matters that are Christian in nature must be addressed according to the Christian precept (NOT LAWS), those that are civil in nature could be taken to the civil courts, while those that are criminal in nature be subjected according to the relevant laws in Nigeria.
4. A Ploy To Expedite The Passage Of The Sharia Court Of Appeal Bill?
We may recall that there is a bill before the House of Representative that was sponsored by Honourable Abdulahi Salame representing Gwadabawa/Illela federal constituency, Sokoto State, which seeks to altar Sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, in order to increase the jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and Sharia Court of Appeal of a State by including Criminal Matters and Hudud and Qisas and for “other related Matters”. This pro-sharia bill was condemned by patriotic Nigerians of diverse faith and creed.
With the coming of the proposed Christian court bill, and if passed, it is safe that it would easily be argued by proponent of the Islamic bill that it is also justifiable for the Islamic bill to be passed by the parliament. Is that the original idea behind this so-called Christian court bill?
Without prejudice to any faith, Nigeria as a country should/must have no business with religious laws. We are secular, and should be. Our customary laws is enough to take care of matters relating to customs and traditions, while civil and criminal laws takes care of civil and criminal matters respectively. Religion is voluntary of those that practice it, the so-called Sharia laws that exist at present across states are competing with sections of our constitution, we wouldn’t want more complications through Sharia or Ecclesiastical Court of Appeal at the federal level. If this bill was proposed to appease Christians so as to allow easy passge of Rep Abdulahi Salama Sharia bill, then it is dead on arrival. Nigerians must act and resist both confusionist bills.
I condemned the Sharia bill, I still strongly condemn this proposed Ecclesiastical court bill because the bill serves the interest of nobody except those few members of the elite that will be appointed to chair or be part of such court. It should be emphasised that Christianity is not in competition with Islam or any religion, neither is Christianity the opposite of Islam.
I enjoin members of the National Assembly to look at laws that will positively affect the lives of Nigerians irrespective of religious creed, gender, status or tribe instead of wasting taxpayers monies by sitting in their chambers to discuss irrelevant and confusionist bills like the Sharia and Ecclesiastical courts bills. If our “Honourables” are bored, they should go on indefinite recess and spare the citizens of more troubles. Enough is Enough for the Wise.
May God Bless Us All And Bless Nigeria
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